Disney’s Moana—the animated musical-adventure about a Polynesian chief’s daughter chosen by the ocean to reunite the goddess Te Fiti with a mythical stone—was a beautiful celebration of indigenous New Zealand culture. But while Disney took pains to ensure Moana, with its use of traditional Māori mythology, was authentic and respectful to the native people, the film only existed until recently in English, the language of white settlers, which is responsible for slowly pushing te reo Māori into obsolescence.
Not so anymore. The movie has now been translated into the language of its characters by Taika Waititi, a New Zealand writer and director who worked on the English version of the film. Moana reo Māori, produced by Waititi’s sister Tweedie, was screened for free in 30 theaters across New Zealand in September to the great delight of many Māori parents. According to the New York Times, the screenings, which did not have subtitles, bolstered enthusiasm amongst young indigenous New Zealanders for their native tongue as well as hopes for its survival.
Disney has since released the Māori version of the soundtrack, and the film’s best song, “Shiny,” sung by Flight of the Concords’ Jemaine Clement as Tamatoa the treasure-loving crab, has been rendered even more fantastical in the indigenous language. Don’t even bother clicking on the original link above—or do, but turn the sound down and play “Piata Mai Nei” over the top instead:
This is not the first time Clement, whose mother is Māori, has embraced his Māori roots through performance. In 2004 Clement toured The Untold Tales of Maui, an award-winning stage show reworking traditional Māori mythology, with Taika Waititi, whom he met at university.
You can also hear “Tukuna Au,” the translated version of the Oscar-nominated “How Far I'll Go,” sung by 16-year-old Jaedyn Randell, who voiced the princess in Moana reo Māori: